If Cows Could Fly, starring Allan Merovitz, Jan 30-Feb 3, 2013

Artword Theatre’s season at the Lyric Theatre continues with a revival of an Artword favourite, Allan Merovitz’s musical play If Cows Could Fly, from January 30 to February 3, 2013.
Allan Merovitz, a widely-known actor and Klezmer musician, grew up in Smiths Falls in the Ottawa Valley in a family of Hassidic Jews. If Cows Could Fly traces the story of his family making their way from Poland, Lithuania and Kishinev to the tiny rural Ontario community of Smiths Falls. The story of his family is a microcosm of the Jewish experience world-wide. In If Cows Could Fly, Allan has reconstructed the fragmented memories of his family in diaspora, and interspersed them with a wide range of musical styles: Yiddish songs, country-and-western ballads, as well as Klezmer and Ottawa Valley fiddle tunes.

Written and performed by Allan Merovitz. Directed and dramaturged by Ronald Weihs. Music direction by Frank Rackow. Music performed by Frank Rackow clarinet & saxophone, Jennifer Lockman keyboard, Ronald Weihs fiddle. Design by Judith Sandiford.

Allan Merovitz, 2008 show

Wed to Sun 8 pm, Sun 2 & 7:30 pm, $25, $19, $16.
For media interviews and group bookings, contact Associate Producer Valeri Kay 905-527-1633.

Allan tells how his Zaide escaped being conscripted into the Russian army by the Cossacks. How a ghost helped Frume leave her marriage (“get a get”) and start a new life with her two children. How Bubbe Oudel supported her family – and the whole neighbourhood – during the hungry depression. How Uncle Hy, war hero and demolition expert, solved the problem of “No Jews Allowed on this Road”.

The tales lead from villages in Poland and Bessarabia, to Antwerp, London, and on to the new world, Nova Scotia, Montreal, and finally Smiths Falls in the Ottawa Valley.

If Cows Could Fly, on IGTC stage 2008, news video

Running through all the stories is the indomitable spirit to survive, persist, and transcend. An impossible dream is said to come true only “if cows could fly”. Impossible? Maybe it’s just a matter of getting really good at something – making shoes, shooting pool, remembering who you are.

In 2008, Artword Theatre took If Cows Could Fly to Ottawa for a highly successful three-week run in the inaugural season of the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre. Patrick Langston of the Ottawa Citizen said “don’t miss this show”, and Alvina Ruprecht of the CBC said “I laughed, I cried, I had a wonderful time”. That summer If Cows Could Fly was featured at the 2008 Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront.

Ronald Weihs, Director’s Statement, 2013

Allan Merovitz and I have been friends for a long time. We first worked together on the Caravan Stage Company in 1977, traveling in horse-drawn wagons through the interior of British Columbia, performing Hands Up!, the story of the legendary train robber, Bill Miner. I had written the script for the show, as well as acting and playing the fiddle. Allan was wonderful as Shorty Dunn, Bill’s loyal companion.

I only realized recently that If Cows Could Fly ends right at that point. At the end of his play, Allan confides his crazy dream to his eccentric relative Leonard: “I think I’m going to go out west and be a cowboy”. And in Allan’s real life, that’s when he went out to join the Caravan.

In 1980, I met Judith Sandiford, and started up a theatre company on Vancouver Island. Allan played the bull cook in Highball!, a play about loggers that we toured to logging communities – as always, charismatic on stage, singing beautifully.

In 1982, back in Toronto, Allan told me about the project he had started, then called “Zaide Didn’t Want to be a Soldier”. He was interviewing his family, researching the history of the Jewish diaspora and working these two elements together. He showed me his first draft, and I watched a couple of early versions.

In 1993, Judith Sandiford and I started a studio theatre called Artword, on the second floor of an industrial building on Portland Street. Allan and I hoisted 3/4 inch drywall up to the ceiling, to muffle the sound of the feet walking above.

In 1998, Judith and I decided to lease the clothing factory beside our tiny theatre, and turn it into two theatre spaces and an art gallery. Allan was with us when we first paced through the building, trying to imagine it with the piles of fabric gone, stages here, dressing rooms there.

Allan Merovitz & Ronald Weihs, 2000, outside 75 Portland

We opened our new Artword Theatre in 1999. Looking back, I’m amazed at that first season: two African plays, Strindberg, Marivaux, concerts by the Amati Quartet, our own Festival of the Human Voice, dance works, it goes on and on. And in that first season were two works that I directed and Judith designed: Cu’Fu?, Charly Chiarelli’s hilarious and moving story about growing up Sicilian in Hamilton, and If Cows Could Fly, Allan’s enchanting account of growing up Jewish in Smiths Falls. (I never intended to specialize in plays about growing up something in somewhere. It just happened.)

Seven years later, the building was sold for condos. When the lights went down on our last production, we had eight days to vacate the building. Allan helped us move our stages, our seats, lights, cable, pipes into a 48-foot trailer. He stood with us watching as the trailer was towed away, to wait for us to find a new theatre.

After a year of fruitless searching in Toronto, a city gone condo-crazy, Judith and I were suddenly inspired to look for space in Hamilton. We made an offer on a beautiful old house in the east end, and a new adventure had begun. And our first project? – taking a new production of If Cows Could Fly to Ottawa in 2007-2008 (in the Irving Greenberg Theatre, with Allan staying with us in our new Hamilton house / rehearsal studio.

So for Judith and me, If Cows Could Fly is intertwined with our artistic lives, and Allan has been a companion-in-arms throughout.

I love this play – the characters, the songs, the humanity of it. It is about how people sail with courage into an unknown future, making lives for themselves. And for us – Judith, Allan, and myself – it has been a large part of our own voyage. I hope you like it.

Ronald Weihs, Artword Theatre, 2013

If Cows Could Fly: Performance history with Artword Theatre before 2013:

1. February 16 to March 12, 2000, written and performed by Allan Merovitz,
directed and dramaturged by Ronald Weihs, music directed and performed by Anne Lederman on piano, with Ronald Weihs on fiddle, designed by Chris Bryden,
premiere of the new full-length production, at Artword Theatre, 75 Portland St. Toronto

2. June 21 to July 14, 2001, written and performed by Allan Merovitz,
back again in a streamlined version, directed by Ronald Weihs, with Klezmer and Yiddish music by the Simcha Klezmer Band (Jarl Anderson on piano and mandolin, Ronald Weihs on fiddle), at Artword Theatre, 75 Portland St., Toronto

3. February 15 & 16, 2008 in Hamilton at the Downtown Arts Centre

Allan Merovitz, at IGTC, Ottawa, 2008

4. February 21 to March 9, 2008 in Ottawa at the new Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre mainspace. Artword remounts an Artword favourite. If Cows Could Fly is a musical play about growing up Jewish in Smiths Falls in the Ottawa Valley, written and performed by Allan Merovitz, with an onstage Klezmer band (Henri Oppenheim, accordion; Frank Rackow, clarinet; Ronald Weihs, fiddle). Directed and dramaturged by Ronald Weihs, designed by Judith Sandiford, produced by Barry Karp and Artword Theatre.

5. August 2008, special shows:
*Thurs August 28, 2008, at 7 pm, at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton ON. (preview show)
*August 31, 2008, 1:30 pm, Studio Theatre at Harbourfront, Toronto, Ashkenaz Festival.
*September 1, 2008 5:00 pm, Studio Theatre as above, both 90-minute version.

Artword Theatre Announces 2012-13 Season at the new Lyric Tbeatre

Artword Theatre Announces 2012-13 Season at the new Lyric Tbeatre

Artword Theatre is back in action in Hamilton, presenting a series of four productions at the new Lyric Theatre on King Street at Locke.

The Artword team, Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford, ran a successful theatre facility in Toronto for twelve years before coming to Hamilton in 2008. Artword Theatre produced four original plays at the Pearl Company in 2008-09. Then Ron and Judith bought a little sports bar on Colbourne Street, just off James North, and turned it into the popular Artword Artbar, featuring music of all varieties, theatre, poetry and spoken word four nights a week, Wednesday to Saturday. When Patrick Brennan announced plans for converting the Westside Concert Theatre into the new Lyric Theatre, he got in touch with Ron and Judith right away, offering to co-produce four shows with them. It was a delightful offer that Artword could not refuse.

#1: Artword’s season kicks off October 18 to 20, 2012 with 1812 – The Songbook, a rollicking sing-along in music hall style. Hamilton’s popular folk ensemble What the Folk (Terry Ball, Geoff Ball, Carolyn Reid, Caroline Olsen and drummer Eric Hanenberg) sing songs about the War of 1812, and the audience is invited to join in. Illustrated songbooks with the lyrics, and interesting anecdotes about the war, are passed out before every show. Judith Sandiford’s dedicated research unearthed a treasure-trove of rousing songs from the period, assembled and scripted by Sandiford and Ronald Weihs.  Music arrangements are by What the Folk. The show is in cabaret format, with beverages available to loosen up the throat.

Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, October 18 to 20, 2012
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.

#2 From November 29 – December 8, Artword presents James Street, a light-hearted look at the history of Hamilton. Written and directed by Ronald Weihs, with music by Mark McNeil, James Street features Charly Chiarelli – whose stories about growing up Sicilian in Hamilton introduced the North End to the world. Charly plays a modern Hamiltonian who mysteriously encounters a legendary figure from Hamilton’s early days – Paoli Brown, town crier and one of the leaders of Hamilton’s African-Canadian community.  Together they witness a headlong and hilarious dash through Hamilton’s history as sketched out by an ensemble of actors. Mark McNeil, a well-known journalist around town, is also a talented songwriter and master of multiple guitar styles. He plays an ever-present street musician, who is joined by other members of the company for different musical numbers. The design, by Judith Sandiford, features a street stretching the length of the theatre, and a tumultuous streetcar ride.

Thursday to Saturday, 8 pm, Nov 29, 30, Dec 1, 6, 7, 8, 2012
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors
Preview: Wednesday, Nov 28 at 8 pm, all tickets $10

#3. January 30 to February 3, 2013. If Cows Could Fly, Allan Merovitz’s musical play about growing up Jewish in Smith’s Falls,  is a perennial Artword favorite. Allan is known internationally as an interpreter of Klezmer and Yiddish songs, and If Cows Could Fly is full of that infectious music. Directed and developed by Ronald Weihs, Cows has seen several Toronto productions, at Artword Theatre and the Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront. The production features an live Klezmer Ensemble directed by Frank Rackow. An Artword production in 2008, originating in Hamilton, had a highly successful run in Ottawa, in the inaugural season of the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre. Patrick Langston of the Ottawa Citizen said “don’t miss this show”, and Alvina Ruprecht of the CBC said “I laughed, I cried, I had a wonderful time”.

Wednesday to Saturday at 8 pm, Jan 30 – Feb 2, 2013, Sunday matinee Feb 3 at 2 pm, 2013.
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Wed, Thurs & Sun: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors

#4. Artword’s spring offering is a revival of Tobacco Troubadour, May 2 – 11, a coming-of-age musical based on the songs of J.P. (Paul) Riemens, written and directed by Ronald Weihs. Paul grew up as a “bunkhouse brat” in the tobacco fields of Ontario. Shortly after Ron and Judith arrived in Hamilton, they heard J.P. Riemens and the Barflies play in concert. Struck by the rich storytelling quality of the songs, Ron approached Paul that very night, and Tobacco Troubadour was born. The play begins with J.P. and the Barflies playing a concert, when suddenly actors emerge and a tender love story starts to unfold, weaving in and out with the songs that inspired the play.  The original production in April 2009 was called “truly great” by View Magazine, with “memorable songs, compelling performances and characters that we care about”.  The production was taken to Delhi, in the heart of the Tobacco region, in July, 2009, to packed houses.

Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, May 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 2013
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors

Seasons tickets are available at $68 for all four plays, or $49 for any three plays. Call Artword Theatre at 905-543-8512 for details.

For more information, contact Judith Sandiford, artword@artword.net,
905-543-8512, cell: 905-912-9083

Artword Theatre
Artistic Director: Ronald Weihs
Managing Director: Judith Sandiford

artword@artword.net, www.artword.net, 905-543-8512, cell: 905-912-9083
Artword Theatre also runs Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street Hamilton, www.artword.net/artbar.